"County lines" drug dealing


​“County lines” is the term used to describe a form of organised crime where criminals based in urban areas pressurise vulnerable people and children to transport, store and sell drugs in smaller county towns.


It takes its name from the phone numbers used as ‘deal lines’ by the organised gangs. These numbers will be shared among local drug users by the gang as means of arranging the purchase of class A drugs such as Crack Cocaine and Heroin.   

This type of drug dealing sees offenders exploit vulnerable people - including children and those with mental health or addiction problems – at all point of their drug supply routes.
However, it is not only children who are vulnerable – for instance, those in care are often groomed into involvement county linesAlbeit relatively rarely, UK investigations have encountered children from what people might perceive to be more stable or more affluent backgrounds who have been groomed for county lines drug dealing.

County lines drug dealers will take over a vulnerable person’s home within their target market place to store their drugs and cash, and use it as a base for dealing drugs – this is called “cuckooing”.
This usually involves identifying vulnerable people such as drug addicts, or people who are vulnerable due to mental or physical health impairments, single mothers and female sex workers. The dealers then coerce, and sometimes threaten the vulnerable person into allowing them to take control of their home so they can use it to store and sell drugs.
They usually stay in a property for a short time before moving on to new premises.
The victims of cuckooing tend to live in social housing and the dealers will either stay in the property to deal drugs themselves, or will get the householder to deal on their behalf, travelling back and forth to their home areas to restock.
Some of the dealers are criminals by choice and some have been coerced and exploited by organised criminals to work for them.
How can you help?

Information from members of the public is vital to help us tackle this type of drug dealing across County Durham and Darlington.
Some of the signs to look out for are:
• A child persistently going missing from school or home and / or being found out-of-area
• Unexplained money, clothes, or mobile phones
• Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls
• Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups
• Leaving home / care without explanation
• Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries
• Carrying weapons
• Significant decline in school results / performance
• Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks
• Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being
Signs of cuckooing to look out for:
• Increased callers at a property
• Increase in cars pulling up for short periods of time
• Different accents at a property
• Increased antisocial behaviour at a property
• Not seeing the resident for long periods of time
• Unfamiliar vehicles at the property
• Windows covered or curtains closed for long periods
If you suspect a child you care for or know is being exploited or that an address is being ‘cuckooed’, please call the police on 101, if they are in immediate danger, always call 999.
Force position statement
The current position is that a small number of County Lines have been identified in the Durham Constabulary area. There has been an effective (pursue) response using proactive measures to gather evidence and prosecute those involved, closing down the lines involved.
However, it is recognised that there is an emerging crack cocaine market developing in the force area and effective partnership working (prepare and protect) is required to prevent further county lines activity being imported into the area and to ensure an effective safeguarding response if further lines take hold. This is being developed by the Constabulary working with all relevant agencies through the Child Exploitation Group.